Speedy Stabber Shadowblade Guide (1.2.5)
This build focuses on killing monsters quickly and safely. Unlike most (stealth) builds, it's not a glass cannon. The basis for this is a character I used to clear insane: http://te4.org/characters/13640/tome/5c ... fd959bef4e
1. Race choice:
1)Shalore is the #1 choice for almost anything, and it is no different in this case. If you are into min-maxing, Timeless is where it's at.
If you want to try something different, my other choices would be, in order of preference:
2)Cornac - You get an extra category point. Use it to get a 4th infusion early. An extra category point opens up the possibility of opening Ambush and using ambuscade. This will be covered later in the guide.
3)Thalore - Overall, a strong pick. Wrath of the Woods racial buff is second only to Shalore's Grace of the Eternals.
3rd and 4th talents are really good as well. Downsides include a hefty xp penalty which is a significant downside. Yes, it's a penalty that completely goes away once you hit level 50, but most of the game is spent below level 50.
4)Halfling - Evasion and Indomitable are useful, 12 life rating gives you 261 more base hp than
Shalore on level 50.
2.1 The build - class trees
Dual Weapons: 3/1-3/3/5
Dual weapon training is at its most efficient with 2-3 points. When your offhand damage gets really high and if you maybe have a mastery bonus from ring of the war master and points to spare, it might be worth to push for more. Having it sit at 1 or 2 for a long time is perfectly reasonable.
Dual weapon defense - If you are levelling this, do it early or not at all. It's very useful in the early game as a lot of mobs have bad accuracy. I don't think it's a skill worth maxing though, so 3 points is a halfway solution. It's possible to float these points (make sure they are always the last class points to put in, so that you can eventually take them out) and save a few points, but that requires a trip to town for every level up. This build assumes 3 points here but it's possible to do with less.
Precision - Extremely useful vs heavily armored characters. 3 points here isn't exactly science - it's more a product of organic levelling, and comparing APR on the character sheet with what an average heavily armored rare/randboss had. You can do with less, but more is probably overkill.
Momentum - 5 points, it's one of the key components of this build, along with Essence of Speed and Grace of the Eternals/Blinding Speed. Increased attack speed increases in worth and the stamina loss per turn decreases in cost as your global speed goes up. You should get this running by level 20 or so.
Dual Techniques: 1/2/0/0
Dual Strike - Usually 1 point. Dirty fighting is a better stun. You might find some use for this early, but I stopped using it by mid-game.
Flurry - 2 points. Yes, it's a nuke and a strong nuke but it's a 12 cd one. Because of your speed and stamina expenditure you either won't have time to use it twice in one combat or won't have enough stamina, and I don't consider the extra damage to be worth the extra points. I find that the strength of flurry is in the fact that you hit 6 times which means that each of those hits can proc on hit effects (I will talk more about this later).
The rest I don't find particularly useful. You can put 1 point in Sweep and Whirlwind, but from previous experience I don't end up using them enough, so I didn't.
Combat Techniques: 1/5/3-4/0(5)
Rush - Situational use. Shadowstep is better for this purpose, when you need it.
Precise Strikes - This is something I would get running in the midgame. The speed penalty is offset by shadow feed, and late game this got me 30+% crit chance (and 40-ish accuracy, which helps with APR on daggers).
Perfect Strikes - I'd get a point or two here early to hit stealthed/invisible mobs. Eventually I went to 4 because a 100 accuracy bonus is really nice both for landing stuns and the apr bonus. This build assumes 4 points here, but it's possible to do with less.
Blinding Speed - If you are playing Shalore no points here are necessary, as this and Grace of the Eternals overwrite each other. Otherwise, this will probably have to do. Using Eden's Guile boots is a better choice here because Blinding Speed only lasts 5 rounds, but if it didn't drop for you, Blinding Speed is one of the buttons you will be pressing a lot. 0 points if Shalore, 5 points otherwise. This build assumes 0 points were put in Blinding Speed, and if you put more, you will have to shave off points elsewhere.
Dirty Fighting: 3/5/1/1-3
Dirty Fighting - One of the best melee abilities in the game. I've seen a lot of builds skip this which I consider a serious mistake. Stunning the enemy is one of the best ways to increase your chance of survival in melee combat. Why is this stunning ability so good?
One of the reasons is that it does not take a turn in case the opponent resists the stun (but be aware, it does take a turn if you miss). That means that if you are fighting something extremely dangerous, it's possible to use a movement infusion, walk to the enemy, try dirty fighting, and if it fails, run away (with phase door/another movement) before the enemy has a chance to do much.
The other is that it has a really good duration. You can get 7 turns for 3 points invested which is plenty. If you find yourself needing more, investing more points here is not a waste. Eventually you will proc so much stun from backstabs/on hit effects that you will only use this as an opener, so the 3 points is a value that's somewhere in between - enough that you can get through the middle game with it, but not so much that you end up thinking you wasted the points in the late game.
Backstab - a lot more crit on stunned opponents which should be all non-immune opponents you are fighting. As your critical chance approaches 100% that component loses its usefulness, but a chance to stun on crit increases in value. I was running 3 points here for the most of the game and only maxed it late.
Switch place - Situational but very useful. Don't forget that you have it.
Cripple - It's one of the better statuses to apply. A stunned and crippled enemy is absolutely no threat. The downside of this ability is that it costs stamina and there are other ways of applying cripple (like a dagger that cripples on crit), this has a long cd, and, crucially, there are only so many points to go around. Ideally, I would use this at 3 points because it gives a nice 7 turn duration. Use your own best judgement. This build assumes 1 point here.
Lethality - not an early priority beyond 1 point. The biggest value here is the crit multiplier so put more points here as your crit chance increases. Putting points here after you put points in precise strikes seems like a logical choice.
Deadly strikes - Between accuracy bonuses, Precision sustain and gear, I ended up not needing to use this that much. It certainly has its uses against extremely armored opponents, but I found it very situational.
Wilful combat - A significant buff to your physical power. Absolutely crucial on insane as you get less stat points and so you will probably be lagging behind with STR increases and your damage will suffer in the mid game. 3 points get you 9 turns which you can extend with Timeless.
Snap - I could see a use for it but we are limited on both points and stamina.
Shadow Magic: 1/1-5/5/1
Shadow Combat - Not very useful. Early on your priority is to get enough mana to use Essence of Speed and have enough left for time shield, teleports and phase doors, and you don't have mana to spare for such luxuries as Shadow Combat which just eats through it. Significant downside of using it later is that you will either get manaclashed or fight something that burns your mana when you hit it/it hits you, and you will find yourself having to turn it off mid-combat. The damage increase is comparatively small late in the game for additional hassle.
Shadow Cunning - Not many things run off spellpower in this build, so I would run with 1 here for a bigger part of the game. I would eventually get it to 5 nonetheless. Time Shield will scale with spellpower, and if you end up picking up Celestial/Light tree from the escort, it's good there as well. If you have a weapon that procs epidemic on hit, it can spellshock if you have enough sp, and that's extremely good (reduces all resistances of the enemy). If you don't find yourself having enough use for spellpower, it's acceptable to only put 1 here and put points where they will find more use.
This build assumes 5 points here.
Shadow Feed - Max it. Mana regen, physical and spell speed, what's not to love? I would rush 1 point here to get rid of the manasurge rune by level 8.
Shadowstep - People told me they were one-shotting stair bosses at High Peak with it on nightmare, but my experience with this on insane on this build is different. I ended up using a movement infusion as a closer until I got draconic will and providence running (because it offers stun and pin immunity), and after I did, I already had so many physical damage bonuses that I've seen this doing darkness damage as a downside, and the stamina cost as too high to use comfortably. 40-ish stamina after fatigue buys you 7 ticks of momentum which is a lot of attacks with your speed, and shadowstep does not allow for precise battlefield positioning.
It's probably a decent place to put any extra points that you might have left over. This build assumes one point here.
EDIT: On reflection, it's probably reasonable to assume that you're not irrationally biased against Shadowstep like I am, and so getting Shadowstep to range 10 is probably a good idea. It does work through walls after all. I still think it's not stamina efficient, but that might not be as important. Thanks cctobias.
Congeal Time: Too slow to use from afar, take it off the hotbar. It's stun padding at least.
Time Shield: The reason to open this tree at level 10. Time Shield was good enough to carry me through the early game on insane, and it remains useful throughout the game. Max ASAP.
EDIT: On reflection, maxing it might not be necessary. I wasn't paying attention to efficiency here because it's the goddamn Time Shield, savior of early game. You could probably take few points off here (and put them in shadowstep). Thanks cctobias.
Time Prison: You are not made from mana, and this checks saves. Stun padding at least.
Essence of Speed: This is a priority, as soon as you have enough mana to support it. It's not unreasonable to wear one item with decent +mana (as long as you don't sacrifice a +hp item in its place) to allow you to run this easier in the midgame.
This works out to 68 points on level 50. It does not assume that you will get an alchemy elixir of focus finished for 2 extra class points, as you might want to finish Foundations first and end up missing Focus through bad luck.
Cornac Ambuscade variant:
Extra category point allows you to run the Ambush tree 1/1/5.
We need 7 points for this. Take 1 from perfect strikes, 2 from dual weapon defense and either a) 4 from shadow cunning or b) 2 from precision, 1 from perfect strikes, 1 from flurry, or c) 4 from lethality.
2.2 The build - generic points
Combat Training -
5 Thick Skin, 5 Daggers, 5 Armour Training, 2 Combat Accuracy
2 points in accuracy are usually enough for the early game, as dex is your priority anyway. Armour and Daggers can be run with 4/5 for a long while, it's not a priority to max them asap. Don't level Con for Thick Skin, use +Con items to qualify instead (I will talk about stats more a bit later).
Survival - 1/1/5/1
This is a suggestion entirely based on my experience on insane difficulty, where getting one-shot from stealth is a serious danger and Piercing Sight is thus extremely valuable. I would suggest this for nightmare as well, as this build does not have a huge amount of base HP, before shields and heroism, even when you stack lots of +HP items. I actually went with 1/4/5/1 in this tree, but Charm Mastery is optional (really, really good, but still optional). Advice on using charms is beyond the scope of this guide, but you can do a lot with it, as it applies to items with powers that don't use the charm cooldown (like wintertide vial for instance) as well.
If none of this appeals to you, 1/1/1/1 is another option, just enough to get evasion. I think it's worth it because you have just the right stats for it. By the end game I had 37% chance to evade for 11 turns, which is huge.
Conveyance - Depends, I went with 5/1/0/0
How you run conveyance entirely depends on your playstyle. 5/1, 1/5, 5/5 are all options that can be justified.
Controlled phase door is really good because it's not that random, you always have a pretty good idea of where you will end up and in practice I found that to be enough for me.
Controlled teleport is one of the best escapes in the game, but it requires you to have a relatively safe area to teleport to. If you just started clearing the level and you're less than 15 tiles away from safety, phase door/movement is better. If you cleared the entire level and you're just having trouble with that one pesky rare/randboss, uncontrolled teleport is just as good. It's mostly useful when you're midway through clearing a level, if that makes sense.
I went with 2 movement infusions and 5 points in phase door. There have certainly been quite a few situations where I was in a desperate situation and controlled teleport would have helped. Use your own judgement is the best advice I can give.
Displacement shield - I didn't find much use for. Not enough spellpower to justify picking it, in my opinion.
Probability travel - I've seen people run this but I haven't used it much on any of my characters.
Suggestions for racial trees:
1/1-5/1/5 for Shalore -
Magic of the Eternals is good for this build but generic points are at a premium and using them for utility is better than using them for more crit% and power - we have class points for that. You can put spare points here.
1/1/5/1 for Thalore
1/5/1/1 for Halfling
Assuming 8 points in racial trees, and 8 in survival, this works out to 39 points. Including points assigned at start, you should have 47 generic points, plus 2 from Arena, 1 from Heart, 2 from potion of foundation (I'm assuming you're doing it first), which works out to 52 points. That leaves us with 13 points to distribute, and we also have a spare category point after getting 5 infusions. Any thief escorts that you save count as 1 additional free generic.
Suggestion for other generic trees:
Celestial/Light - It's really good, especially if you land it early. I'd get providence going at least, and what else you pick from the skills is up to you. Both bathe in light and healing light have their uses but the full explanation of how to use them tactically is beyond the scope of this guide. Bathe in Light increases with Magic stat and Healing Light increases with spellpower so I ended up taking H. light here.
EDIT: I did not know that Barrier could crit (Time Shield can't), that makes it a superior end game option for pre-shielding because of the crit multiplier. Thanks cctobias.
Vile life - You get this by corrupting the sandworm heart on the altar in the Mark of the Spellblaze. Alternative pick, and a decent one. Blood splash heals on crit, healing inversion counters vitality (not sure if it checks saves though, I should check that), Elemental Discord is essentially free for you, and Vile Transplant is an interesting way to handle nasty status effects (it does depend on spellpower though).
If you plan on picking either of these trees, I would not skimp on points in shadow cunning. You can take points off lethality instead (as much as I hate losing crit multiplier, something's gotta give).
Stone Alchemy - If you didn't get an anorithil/vile life does not appeal to you. You get more money for the 4k artifacts, and you get to imbue one gem, presumably something like the Azurite.
I can't think of any other good alternatives. Conditioning is unappealing at 0.8 mastery and we're not putting any points in CON anyway. Harmony is a possibility but we have no ways of reducing equilibrium.
Priority is to pump dex and cun, with enough points in magic to get your abilities working (I found 20 was enough). After that, pump str. Save all +stat items for stats that are not your primaries, in case you need to qualify for something (especially Thick Skin). If you can't carry them all, store them in the fortress. If you didn't open the fortress yet, store them either in any vault or the Ruined Dungeon entrance, and move them to the fortress eventually.
CON is not a stat that you should be putting points into. This does not apply just to this build or this character, this applies to almost every character you will play. 50 points for 200 hp is not a good return. In the end game with a good heroism infusion, good shield rune and lots of +HP items, you will get to more than 2500 effective hp, even with a low hp race/class combination like this. In that insane run, I had 3000 effective HP.
If at any time you are allowed to pick a tertiary stat, choose DEX over CON. Dex allows you to shrug crits and in the long run that will save you more than 200 hp. If Dex is already a primary stat, choose Cun. Cunning gives you crits and utility (Track, Piercing Sight among others), it's useful for anyone. If Dex and Cun are both your primary stats, you are playing a dagger user, so put points in STR for more physical power. The bottom line is that there are better ways to stack +HP in this game than to put points in CON.
I would suggest running 2 movement infusions eventually, although start with one. They have 3 functions, as a closer, protection from status (stun/pin), and as an escape. In the early game, I would try to only fight monsters that can stun me while under the protection of the movement infusion buff.
1 wild is usually enough, with a double physical/mental being a top choice. If you start with Shalore, getting a wild infusion is a priority.
1 slot goes to healing infusion in the early game. No, they don't heal for a lot, but they are instant and they can remove a poison effect. They make your wild infusion better by clearing off a poison effect and making sure the wild will target stun/blind. They remove spydric poison and the poison that causes you to fail actions, both of which are really nasty. Eventually you might want to swap this for a shield rune.
1 slot goes to heroism. Get one of these as soon as possible, as they are the best source of extra HP in the game. As long as you're not fighting critter trash, you should always be fighting with a heroism infusion on.
I am going to talk most about the early game here, as I think it's the part that is the most difficult.
Your first priority is to buy the best infusions that you can get. 1 movement, 1 wild, 1 healing/shield is my choice. As your 4th, either get another movement or go with movement, wild, healing, shield.
One of the great tricks for surviving the early game is to make note of all +HP items in the shops when you start and buy them straight after buying your infusions, as you get money. Tranmog all gems and use those to purchase stuff - don't save your gems and stuff for when you get to the fortress as you will have more energy than you will use. For anything other than weapons, +HP items should take precedence in the early game.
For melee, a good rule of thumb is also to buy a decent t3 weapon as soon as reasonable. It shouldn't take precedence over infusions or good +HP items, though.
Check Shatur and Zigur shops for useful charms. A totem of thorny skin can make you unkillable in early game melee. If you have good torques for psi shields, you can swap between them depending on what mob you will be facing. A high powered thermal shield will eat most of the Shade's opening Freeze, and the following manathrust, for instance. A good application of these can turn difficult battles into easy ones. A tentacle totem can summon a tentacle that can tank almost anything in t1s even on insane. A strong wand of conjuration can take off half the enemies hp before you close in. Not all of these continue to scale that well into the mid/end game but in early game they are amazing and cheap.
Wear heavy armour. You do not use stealth so you have no reason to be in light armour.
Get Bloodcaller from the Slaver's compound. I kept it in the ring slot throughout the game. You will do a lot of damage so you will heal a lot from it.
In the midgame, I would make it a priority to use as many of the items that inflict status conditions on hit as reasonable (don't skimp on +HP because of it though!). Blind, cripple, damage reduction, random insanity are all really good. Considering that you hit a lot, you will be able to shut down mobs just by hitting them enough.
Mid-to-late game, I would also start keeping some items with good physical penetration as this is something that you will not get from talents. Keep in mind the reduction will affect the enemy resistance in a multiplicative way, not additive, so if the enemy has 60% phys resist, 20% penetration will reduce it to 48% (0.6 * (1 - 0.2)), not 40%.
6. How it plays
This is for harder fights. I don't think you need to press this many buttons for normal mobs.
You turn on momentum. You pop all your cooldowns: heroism (first, to get stat bonuses on other things), speed, wilful combat, perfect strike, providence/draconic will, then you turn on the movement infusion, walk to the enemy, timeless (in case you got hit with something while you were walking now is the time to use it), and dirty fighting. Proceed to beat them to a pulp. You have essence of speed and momentum, so it will be a LOT of bumping before all those cooldowns have worn off.
If you get hurt, pop time shield/shield rune and heal with bloodcaller.
When you run out of stamina/your heroism is down, run away, rest, and come back. I'd be surprised if this happens to you below insane. Everything will be dead by the time you are low on stamina, but in case it isn't, that's why we have CPD and another movement infusion.
There is a lot of button pressing involved, but it's very effective.
I wouldn't say a lot here, I picked Flexible Combat because it's a really good choice for melee that hits a lot and Draconic Will because it works so well with Shalore. Hidden Resources is also an option here instead of D Will, you'd get 15 turns with no stamina worries.
That is about all I have to say. If you have any questions about the build I will do my best to answer them.